Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Party is over on SCBWI's blog!

Don't forget, live blogging is happening... live at for the next few days of the SCBWI International Summer Conference.

Team Blog has had a few connectivity issues, so some of the posts from yesterday are going up today. And we'll be posting loads today, too, and definitely hope to blow your mind with all the amazing things we are hearing and seeing at the conference.

Right now, there's an agent panel and TEAM BLOG has got it covered. You can even pick up hot quotes and tips by following us all on Twitter—especially the #LA10SCBWI.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What's Selling! University Book Store Picture Book Favorites, Part 2

Good morning, campers. You may have read Part 1 a few days ago. Today we discover another picture book group that's selling well for the delightful University Book Store children's department. I was surpreezed at the bounty of new titles in this category...

Wordless picture books, you had me at " "

THE TREE HOUSE by Marije and Ronald Tolman, Boyds Mills Press 2010

WAVE by Suzy Lee, Chronicle 2008 (the new MIRROR gave Lauren/Kitri/Caitlin existential crises)

THE SURPRISE by Sylvia Van Ommen, Front Street 2007 (Lauren can't resist a sheep on a moped)

THE CHICKEN THIEF by Beatrice Rodriguez, Enchanted Lion 2010 (I am in love with the book's wide screen/letter box trim size)

Earlier, the UBS ladies had talked about how beautiful art in a picture book wasn't enough, the story had to be stellar, too. Well, although there are no words in these, the stories told in the pictures are powerful—intricate, poetic, hilarious, or surprising, respectively.

There's one more picture book category that's been doing well at UBS, plus a peek at the titles Lauren and staff are excited about for Fall.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

SCBWI TEAM BLOG Interview with William Low, Part Two

Just a few more questions and some wise words from William Low. I'm attempting to work today like William works—JUST coffee, no snackiepoos. We'll see if my face melts off from the unnaturalness of it all.

Jaime: Are there any people you look forward to hearing at the upcoming LA conference?

William: I expect to see a few familiar faces, but since this is my first summer conference, everything will be new to me. All of the keynote speakers sound terrific and I am looking forward to meeting them!

Jaime: What are you working on now?

William: Right now I am putting the finishing touches on my book, Machines Go To Work in the City  and a new picture book by T.A. Barron, Ghost Hands. (Jaime adds—Check out their previous collaboration on The Day the Stones Walked!)

Jaime: What do you think of the iPad?

William: I have not tried the iPad yet, but I love the concept. I saw a drawing demonstration online by David Kassan and it was amazing. The idea of digital picture books is also exciting... this is truly a new frontier.

Jaime: Are you looking forward to better digital tablets in the near future?

William: I'd love to see a pressure sensitive iPad type devise that was based on the Mac OSX. That way, I can run Adobe Photoshop/Corel Painter and will be free to paint without being tethered to an outlet.

Jaime: It's only a matter of time for the above, I'm sure. Maybe you can help develop the iEasel. I am interested in helping develop the iEasyBakeOven. Last question: Any words of advice to illustrators just starting out in the children's book field?

William: Try to follow your personal vision. Don't try to develop a style, this needs to evolve naturally. Try not to be overly influenced by any one contemporary artist. Look at the old Masters for insights on color, drawing and composition. Watch your favorite movie without the sound to analyze staging, lighting and visual story telling.  Travel!

Jaime: Thanks for all your time, William. Remember, there's still time to register for the SCBWI International Summer Conference and a few spots left in William's premium workshop series!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

SCBWI TEAM BLOG Interview with William Low! Part One

More great pre-conference interviews popping up all over. Jolie's been talking to Ginger Clark, Arthur Levine. Suzanne's chatted with Rachel Vail. Lee's whooped it up with Paul Fleischman. Alice has gabbed with Jennifer Rees, Francesco Sedita. And Martha Brockenbrough brought down the INTERVIEW HAMMER—Mac Barnett, Rubin Pfeffer, Gennifer Choldenko, Greg Pincus, and Gail Carson Levine.

You've read all about Mac McCool here on CocoaStomp. So it is with great pleasure that I add another name to the pre-conference interview pile of goodness, William Low!

And after reading this, you may think, dang, I wish I could sit in on this workshop series. And the good news is, you still have time to sign up for it! A few spots are left, but they are dwindling fast.

First, let's rehash William's conference bio:

William Low has been working as an award winning painter and illustrator professionally for over 23 years. Recently William wrote and authored Old Penn Station (2007) a children’s picture book on the history of one of New York City’s most infamous buildings. Other books William has authored are Chinatown (1997) and Machines Go to Work (2009). For over 20 years, William has been teaching painting and illustration.  He is currently a professor at The Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City where he teaches a painting technique on the computer to undergraduates and graduate students. He gives talks and demonstrations nationally his innovative painting technique and his career in Illustration. William Low lives and works on Long Island in New York.  He is married and has 2 children.

Jaime: Hey, William! Thanks for chatting with me before the conference. Is this your first time at SCBWI LA? If not, how do you feel about the dance party/taco bar on Saturday?

William: Yes, this is my first time and I was not aware of a party on Saturday. Sounds like fun!

Jaime: The party is a hoot (beware the quesadilla bar and/or people wearing quesadillas.) Your workshop series sounds FANTASTIC. There's a list of software and hardware requirements. For those just starting out, do you recommend any online classes or books they could turn to to bone up on Photoshop ahead of time?

William: This workshop assumes a working knowledge of Photoshop: its interface, selection tools, layers management and image adjustments. For this, I think that any beginner book on Photoshop will do. The more they know, the more comfortable they will be. This is an important part of the creative process. If you need a book to get started, I recommend Adobe's excellent Classroom in a Book series. They will also need a Wacom tablet. I don't have any book recommendation for this... like all things it will just take time to get used to drawing on this tablet.

Jaime: Oh, good Photoshop book suggestion! is a nice resource, too. I love my Wacom, I think most artists take to it fairly quickly once they get the nerve up and just start playing. I was so bummed to miss the 2009 SCBWI Winter Conference—I know you did an Illustrator's Intensive there—can you speak a bit on how your upcoming LA series is similar or differs from that?

William: The NYC Intensive was a primer to this course, because I only had one hour for a lecture and demonstration. For the LA conference, we will have 4 hours. This gives me a chance to expand on Photoshop's power and to talk more about technique.

Jaime: I'm thinking there are quite a few illustrators out there who've never done digital work and don't think they can make the crossover, but you're the poster child for mixing things up. You've changed mediums for your picture book work: CHINATOWN was oils; OLD PENN STATION was oils and digital; and MACHINES GO TO WORK is all digital. Why did you make the change?

William: For me, change is the only constant. I made the switch from traditional to digital because I like the freedom and flexibility of working on the computer.  Having the artwork print ready (without scans and color correction) is also a huge plus. However, I do love the feel of real oils and I expect to switch back again sometime in the future.

Jaime: Who are some of your favorite, fellow digital picture book artists?
William: I am a big fan of Craig Mullins' work. He is a great traditional and digital painter.

Jaime: When working on a picture book do you like to eat a particular snack?
William: No, but I do drink lots of coffee.

Jaime: Hold on, I need a moment to process this coffee-only, non-snack world you work in.




Jaime: I can't imagine it. Maybe you should show me what a studio without snacks looks like.

William: Here are 3 pictures of my studio. From left to right: Apple iMac, a modified Wacom Cintiq, my art books and large format Epson printer.

This is a close up of my computer station. The Wacom Cintiq is a pressure sensitive LCD screen, this was removed from its base and mounted on top of my easel, with a removable keyboard stand attached. 
If I prefer to paint in portrait mode, I can rotate this screen on its axis. Since the palettes will also be rotated with the image,  I must change  screen orientation from my operating system.
Jaime: The modified Cintiq is pretty amazing, William, but all I'm saying is, you *might* get more done if a box of Cheez-Its were keeping you company. I'm going to let you think on this, William, and we'll check back in tomorrow with Part Two!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

What's Selling! University Book Store Picture Book Favorites, Part 1

Oooh, I am so sad the UW class is over. I hope all my students are going to flock together and keep their Tuesday and Thursday nights set aside for picture book making. They were a creative and fun bunch, that's for sure.

One awesome thing that happened on the last day of class, thanks to the amazing generosity of our independent bookstores, was an impromptu field trip to University Book Store! Semi-impromptu—I cleared it with the store/children's book buyer weeks ahead of time (I was afraid the UW summer school might say no (insert large-eyed emoticon here.))

Lauren, Kitri and Caitlin of the children's book department greeted the class with coffee and tea and GIGANTOR cookies. They had three tables full of books and spent a good half hour telling us about their favorites, the books that were selling like hotcakes, and titles they are excited about for fall.

It's no yoke! Funny books always do well.

(and the follow up, MONKEY WITH A TOOL BELT AND THE NOISY PROBLEM) both Carolrhoda 2007, 2009

Melanie Watt's SCAREDY SQUIRREL, Kids Can Press 2006 (lotsa other Scaredy Squirrel books now, too.)

HATTIE THE BAD by Jane Devlin, illustrated by Joe Berger, Dial 2010

BARK, GEORGE by Jules Feiffer, HarperCollins 1999

UBS loves all of the above titles because they are great for story time, appeal to different age ranges, are easy to sell by just opening up the book to certain pages (Monkey's tool belt illustration*, Hattie's underpants moment,) and are laugh out loud funny. Lauren, Kitri, and Caitlin appreciate that while the art in all of them is stellar, so is the text, and that's what makes them fall in love with a picture book enough to handsell it, equal parts stellarness (if that's a word.) 

Can you guess what two other picture book genres sell well and are University Book Store favorites?

*Besides, who can resist a monkey named Chico Bon Bon?

Monday, July 12, 2010

SCBWI TEAM BLOG Interview with Mac McCool, Part Deux!

More with Mac McCool!

Jaime: What materials do you like to work with?

Mac: I couldn’t do without Photoshop and my little Wacom tablet these days. However, my favorite tools remain a pencil and an ink brush (Winsor & Newton #7 series).  Doodling with a pencil is so basic, yet versatile, and inking with a brush is lyrical. The curves and twirls, delicate dabs, dramatic swings evoke the grace of ballet dancing.  The Yin to my brush’s Yang is a mechanical (Rotring) pen I have used since I was 13.  Even though I find it far less seductive than the brush, its strength and predictability are impeccable and reassuring.

Jaime: What are you working on these days?

Mac: My super secret day job in an unnamed awesome university takes the bulk of my time.  Under that cover, I’ve started playing “editor.” My students and I have put out a 100+ page graphic novel, “Herakles:  Myth, Monsters, and Inner Demons” (soon available on Amazon).  We’ve retold the famous myth of the Twelve Labors while bringing more continuity to the life journey and struggle of an unwilling hero, victim of his lineage.  I will bring copies of “Herakles” at the conference.  

We’re also completing a graphic novel anthology of Aesop’s fables set in the American Far-West.  At first, it sounded like a goofy idea, but my students have surprised me and made it all work.  Finally, next Fall, we’re going to produce our first alphabet picture book. A team of some 20 to 30 college students will each produce about one page using a wacky, innovative theme we’ll pick as a group.

Jaime: WHOA, your school project sounds fantastic! Any personal projects?

When I’m Mac McCool, the-non-university-guy, I explore the world and work on my own comics.  Last January, I visited China. It was so exciting, I’m trying to teach myself Mandarin (yes, it’s a pretty crazy pursuit, but my brain can’t get enough of that nutty challenge!). Immediately after the conference, I’m heading to France to see among other things the Lascaux paintings by the nameless prehistorical cast of original Bohemian graffiti artists.  As far as graphic novels, I’m preparing a webcomics for kids and writing a script for a longer graphic novel I’ve researched for 10+ years.

Jaime: Nice! Glad to hear you have so many creative irons in the fire. And I have always wanted to see the Lascaux paintings—hope you'll blog about that, Mac. Are there any people you look forward to hearing/seeing at the upcoming LA conference?

Mac: Sure, and it’s funny how my anticipation has changed over time.  The first year or two, I attended the SCBWI conference for the knowledge.  I got what amounted to a semester-long college course in the craft and industry of creating children’s books. After that, I found that like most folks I knew, we attended the conference for the friends and to encounter speakers who have been life-long inspirations.  

Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser put on a superb show every year, but it’s more than that.  It’s a family gathering of sorts.  We all love hanging out in the SCBWI "kitchen," enjoying everyone’s company while we’re stuffing our hearts and souls. My only regret when presenting at the conference is missing out on some of the great people who present at the same time I do. 

Still, this year, the folks I’ve never had the chance to hear include:  Jon Scieszka, Loren Long, Nic Eliopulos, Ashley Bryan, Bruce Hale, Michael Reisman, and many more who no doubt will surprise me!

Jaime: Oh, that kitchen analogy is perfect. Any words of advice to illustrators just starting out in the children's graphic novel/comics field?

Mac: There has hardly been such a great time in the history of US publishing to craft graphic novels for children.  So my advice?


Friday, July 9, 2010

SCBWI TEAM BLOG Interview with Mac McCool

YOU GUYS! The Summer Conference is three weeks from today. I am thrilled with this year's line up of sessions, especially the redonkulously awesome premium workshop options.

If you've ever thought about writing or illustrating a graphic novel, there are still a few spots open in the GRAPHIC NOVEL MASTER CLASS lead by Mac McCool.

Who is this mysterious Mac McCool? What does he read? How does he feel about comics on the iPad? What's the skinny on his Graphic Novel sessions? And most importantly, what does he think about the Summer Conference Saturday Night Taco Bar? Well I know all this now, and more, because I got to interview him! See below.

For starters, here is Mac's conference bio:

Mac McCool had his first comics strips published at sixteen. For ten years, he freelanced as an illustrator for Disney, the Smithsonian, and many dotcoms.  He now shares his passion for children’s graphic novels in presentations and workshops across the country. He has published more than a dozen articles on graphic novels, including in the 2009 Children’s Writers’ and Illustrators’ Market. He teaches illustration and sequential art at California State University, Fullerton.

Jaime: Thanks for chatting with me, Mac! First off, I'm trying to build my graphic novel/comics library and wonder what you've read recently that has knocked your socks off.

Mac: Last summer, I fell in love with Osamu Tezuka’s Buddha (8 vol. graphic novel).  

So this summer, I’m reading more Tezuka (Black Jack, right now).  

I’m also revisiting a lot of my French and Belgian comics “albums” (they call them albums instead of comic books), and enjoying some American golden oldies, like Terry and the Pirates.  

Finally, I'm head over heels about the graphic novels and illustrations of Daphné Collignon, whose artistic skills and approaches to comics are nothing short of brilliant.

Jaime: NICE. I'm putting all those on hold at the library as I type. Your conference workshop series sounds totally awesome, Mac. And it is for both writers and illustrators wanting to make graphic novels, so I bet that's a fun mix. There are five assignments to do (writer assignments here and illustrator assignments here.) If someone were to sign up for your workshop series TODAY—do you think they could get all five assignments done before July 30th?

Mac: First, thanks for the kind words.  I think participants have enough time to do all the practice work. It’s four small exercises and one completed page of comics.  I’ve tailored the assignments so they’re not too time consuming, and yet participants should gain a lot of insight about the various steps of the creative process and be able to pinpoint what skills they master and which ones they need to build up.

Jaime: I remember your excellent talk at an earlier conference and think your workshop series is going to be aces. Anything else you want people to know about it?

Mac: We're going to have fun, get things done, make friends, and cover a lot of material.  I envision that we’ll take some of the finished pages we created and that we'll show them to some publishing pros.

Jaime: Holy Frijoles! That last part is a real bonus! Speaking of frijoles, how do you feel about the Heart & Soul poolside gala and taco bar on Saturday night?

Mac: Salsa heaven!

Jaime: I was thinking of making my pool party outfit AT the party, what do you think of a quesadilla bikini top?


Jaime: Yes, probably not worth pursuing that. Enough about the conference, what does your studio look like?

Mac: Like a dance floor the morning after a wild taco bar party!  On the photo of the wall of comic "albums" I face when I work at my desk, you’ll notice the carton the SCBWI made for me a couple of years ago – a special keepsake!  In the bottom left corner, you'll also notice the edge of the screen of my MacBook - my workhorse.

Jaime: When slaving away on panels on your MacMcCoolBook is there a certain snack that helps you get work done?

Mac: French bread. Any excuse to eat French bread works for me! And salsa of course!

Jaime: Last question for now—what do you think of comics/graphic novels being available on things like the iPad?

Mac: It’s the natural evolution. Better get ready!  I’ll miss the smell of paper and ink, but that’s because I was born in the last century.  In contrast, students in my classes have no hang-ups about clicking through instead of leafing through comics.

As far as how the iPad and digital tablets will affect the artistry of graphic novels, I believe the Internet has already showcased many of the experiments and possibilities.  We can study and build upon those that have worked (metadata about the creative process, akin to a DVD commentary; direct artist-reader interactions; fan communities) and those that haven’t (animated comics that generally look like a poor-man’s TV cartoon).

Jaime: Thanks again, Mac!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Suck it, Eclipse!

NO, I'm not being rude! I'm happy for everyone that is going to see the latest Twilight movie this week. Even though I will wait to watch it via Rifftrax, I wanted to offer to all my friends waiting in those long ticket lines the chance to try a beverage that would rival vamp juice:

Quick Milk Magic Straws
FEEL THE TASTE!* Straws full of cocoa-y pebbles!

And what would be even BETTER than having choco magic straws in an Eclipse line would be receiving a free copies of Suzanne Collins's THE HUNGER GAMES!!! I've never heard of this happening before. England gets Cadbury and free books.

*I want to feel the taste of all my comestibles, don't you?